As expected Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino held true to his word Tuesday morning when he vetoed a bill that its supporters said would have protected undocumented immigrants in the area. Astorino rejected the Immigrant Protection Act, which was passed Monday, August 7th with a 10-5 vote from the county Board of Legislators, with two legislators absent.
In his veto, Astorino said the act, “endangers public safety, violates federal law, infringes upon long-established principles of law enforcement cooperation and jeopardizes millions in federal public safety grants.”
“For more than two decades, Republicans and Democrats have failed to fix our nation’s immigration system,” the county executive said in the statement. “That failure is why we are here today.”
The bill was also criticized by County Department of Public Safety Commissioner George Longworth and Westchester County Department of Corrections Sgt. Hector Lopez, president of the Westchester Hispanic Law Enforcement Association. But County Legislator Catherine Borgia, the legislature’s Democratic majority leader, strongly disagrees.
“While the veto today was expected, it is disappointing nonetheless,” Borgia said in a statement released in both English and Spanish. “The rhetoric we have heard from the county executive is blatant fear-mongering and full of falsehoods. The county executive’s words and actions — in line with his friend President Trump — will not stop our efforts. Our caucus strongly supports a vote to override the legislature’s Democratic majority leader, his veto.”
The county also feared it could lose $13 million in federal public safety grants and reimbursements if declared a “sanctuary county” by the Justice Department. Astorino said that he is working on an executive order that will assuage the anxiety of many in the undocumented immigrant community that they cannot report crimes or seek medical assistance for fear that they will be deported.
Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz said the veto was “ill-advised, wrong and insensitive”.
“It endangers public safety by discouraging certain individuals from reporting gang behavior and other criminality to law enforcement, it endangers public safety by discouraging certain individuals from reporting gang behavior and other criminality to law enforcement,” Kaplowitz said. “The county executive’s decision to hold a press conference celebrating his veto displays a serious tone-deafness delivered in the shadow of President Trump’s inexplicable, anti-American and shocking embrace of neo-Nazi’s and white supremacists.”
Carola Bracco, the executive director of Neighbors Link said she was disappointed by Astorino’s veto.
“This legislation is necessary to assist local law enforcement and protect public safety,” Bracco said. “It also prohibits the county from redirecting its limited resources to federal immigration priorities. With this legislation, our county is moving in the right direction. The county executive has sacrificed progress in the name of partisan politics.”
Borgia said the Immigrant Protection Act will only make us safer.
“The Immigrant Protection Act, which included substantial input from legislators on both sides of the aisle, all impacted departments, the New York State Attorney General’s office, as well as immigration law experts, will make all Westchester residents safer and fully complies with federal law,” Borgia said. “The aim of the Act is to set up guidelines for our County employees to interact with all levels of government. It has clear exceptions for cases of criminal activity. The Act simply states that county taxpayer resources should be used for county business only – not to do the job of the federal government. As President Reagan said, ‘our nation is a nation of immigrants. More than any other country, our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands.’”
The bill goes back to legislators, who will have to come up with two more votes to overturn Astorino’s veto, with two more votes.